An entire genre of crazy flatmate stories have entertained and horrified over the years – from He Died With a Felafel in His Hand to Single White Female.
Avoid living your own version IRL, and use these tips to find your ideal flatmate.
Advertise (and be specific)
Looking for a room? Need to fill a room?
The secret ingredients of a good ad include good photos, the vital stats on beds, baths and facilities, details on transport, price, inclusions/exclusions, lifestyle bonuses, all written to give a little flavour of what it might be like to live with you.
Be explicit about what you’re seeking – if you’re after a quiet person, say so. Don’t make people read between the lines. Be upfront about your needs and tastes.
And if you’re answering an ad, follow your instinct, but be open-minded.
You probably wouldn’t take a job without meeting the people you’re working with first, so why on earth would you share a flat with someone you’ve never met?
Set up a meeting to get to know each other a little before you take the plunge. Be safe. Choose a neutral, public location – café or bar – or, if you do want to hold your meeting at the flat, make sure there’s someone else there with you.
Look for connection and rapport. You don’t need to have magical chemistry to make things work, but you do need to tolerate this person, up close, for some time, so you need to enjoy their company at least a little. If you really do hit it off, bonus. Just remember to keep things above board and professional.
You can never find out too much about someone you’re about to live with. Be prepared to ask all kinds of questions.
You’re on a reconnaissance mission to determine compatibility.
And so on…
It’s not about judging. You’re on a reconnaissance mission to determine compatibility.
One question you should always ask is about finances: do you have a job? If not, how will you pay the rent?
But there are other financial questions both sides should broach – what will you do about groceries and things like toilet paper, washing powder or soap?
Is the rent likely to increase? How will you split the phone, water, gas or electricity bills? Is internet included?
And what if something unexpected comes up and you all need to chip in?
Money can be a real deal breaker so get it all out in the open up front. It’s not personal.
Check lifestyle compatibility
You don’t have to be exactly the same as your potential flatmate (variety is the spice of life), but you do want to be on the same page.
Someone who parties all weekend might not be the best flatmate for someone who studies, for instance.
It has to be practical for everyone involved, so if you have serious doubts, trust your gut and don’t go there. It’ll avoid distress on both sides.
Yes, we know, it’s a bit awkward asking for references. And it’s even more awkward calling and checking up to see whether someone’s story holds up, but unless you really know your future flattie you really should do your homework. It could save heartbreak down the track.
And you never know, the references might be glowing!
Sign on the dotted line
Whether you’re searching with friends for a place to live together, or renting out a room to a stranger, it pays to have something basic in writing so you’re both clear on your rights and you can get out if you need
Start as you plan to continue
There’s always going to a honeymoon period, or awkward period, at the start. But no matter if you’re the one moving in or the one already there, make sure you set ground rules, guidelines and start as you plan to continue.
This applies to everything from money to parties to friends staying or cleaning and groceries or borrowing that car/towel/computer. Habits form quickly and can be tough to break.
Even when it’s completely platonic, living with someone is getting involved in a relationship. You need to talk. You need to know you’re on common ground.
So open those lines of communication and always speak up if something troubles you otherwise you could end up living with it for a long time to come.
Take a leap of faith
You might get more than a flatmate – you might get a friend for life.
Ultimately, whether you’re living with a friend or a stranger, you need to take a leap of faith in humankind. It can be incredibly rewarding, and lead to some amazing relationships
Take a deep breath, have a look online and see where it takes you.